Ericsson, Arris to Aid Charter-TiVo Hook-Up

As a result of Charter Communications Inc. 's new deal with TiVo Inc. (Nasdaq: TIVO), cable video-on-demand (VoD) back-office systems from Ericsson AB (Nasdaq: ERIC) and Arris Group Inc. (Nasdaq: ARRS) will need to be integrated with the broadband-connected "Premiere" HD-DVR.

And that will mark a first. Until now, that distinction had been unique to SeaChange International Inc. (Nasdaq: SEAC), which has integrated its cable VoD back-office in support of TiVo deployments headed up by MSOs such as RCN Corp. , Suddenlink Communications and Virgin Media Inc. (Nasdaq: VMED). Adding Arris and Ericsson to the mix will give TiVo an integration window into the bulk of today's U.S. cable VoD deployments. (See TiVo Hooks Up With SeaChange .)

Charter is already working through its TiVo product and integration plans, and the goal is to launch phase one of product by the early part of the second half of 2011, Charter Vice President of Product Management Rich DiGeronimo told Light Reading Cable.

In that scenario, Charter will combine TiVo's new HD user interface with the vendor's CableCARD-based "Premiere" DVR/set-top box, and later add support for multi-room DVRs and TiVo-powered, thin-client boxes that don't include hard drives. Charter will also get its mitts on TiVo's app for the Apple Inc. (Nasdaq: AAPL) iPad, allowing customers to manage the TiVo boxes remotely via those tablets and via PCs. (See Charter Throws In With TiVo and TiVo's Crafting a Whole-Home DVR.)

As over-the-top (OTT) content goes, Charter confirmed it will enable apps from Twitter and Facebook at the get-go but won't offer access to streaming content from Netflix Inc. (Nasdaq: NFLX). As it emerged in Suddenlink's recent TiVo deployment, Netflix only has rights to stream its library to TiVo DVRs sold at retail, and not to TiVos leased by MSOs... at least not yet. (See Suddenlink Blames Netflix Contracts .)

But Charter is interested in adding support for Netflix, Amazon.com Inc. (Nasdaq: AMZN) and TiVo's other OTT content partners once those rights are secured.

"Our intention is to talk to all of those folks," DiGeronimo told Light Reading Cable. "Our intent is to embrace over-the-top and to integrate it."

Charter could support the whole smash if it were to secure an integrated retail arrangement, which is what Cox Communications Inc. recently did. (See Cox, TiVo Strike a DVR Deal.)

It's a possibility. TiVo "is a proven retail product, which weighed heavily on our decision making," DiGeronimo says. "TiVo has an exceptionally loyal customer base."

Looking ahead, DiGeronimo says Charter anticipates porting TiVo's software to boxes made by other manufacturers, and perhaps borrowing a page from the playbook Virgin is using in the U.K., where it's matching TiVo's interface and applications with Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO) boxes. (See Virgin Media Sets TiVo Price and Virgin Media Sheds Light on TiVo Plan.)

But to get the service out as fast as possible, Charter will start off with Premiere. Other TiVo-powered boxes could show up in Phase II of the partnership, DiGeronimo added.

Charter was also noncommittal as to whether it may adopt a new tru2way-based interface TiVo is developing for Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK). Charter, along with five other major incumbent cable operators, have been upgrading their headends for tru2way per a binding memorandum of understanding with Sony Corp. (NYSE: SNE) signed more than two years ago. (See TiVo Building tru2way Version of New Interface and Revealed: The Tru2way MOU.)

"That [TiVo tru2way guide] could be a byproduct of our next-generation platforms, but it won't be the driving force," DiGeronimo said.

Charter hasn't announced how it will price its TiVo offering, but DiGeronimo says the MSO could come up with "creative packaging" that could highlight its broadband services.

— Jeff Baumgartner, Site Editor, Light Reading Cable

Jeff Baumgartner 12/5/2012 | 5:14:42 PM
re: Ericsson, Arris to Aid Charter-TiVo Hook-Up

I should mention here that Suddenlink has a few systems (like 5 -- a small minority -- I'm told) that use the Arris VoD backoffice.  I asked Suddenlink if it plans to integrate that with TiVo for those markets, and was told: "At this time we'd prefer not to discuss what we're doing in this area. We consider this proprietary information."

I'll take that as a maybe, so stay tuned.

Suddenlink, by the way, has launched its TiVo offer in two markets -- Lubbock and Midland -- so far.  Based on that response, I'd expect all of Suddenlink's other SeaChange markets to get the  TiVo offer before it shows up in any of the markets that use Arris's VoD backoffice.


Cooper10 12/5/2012 | 5:14:36 PM
re: Ericsson, Arris to Aid Charter-TiVo Hook-Up

Interesting strategy by Charter - time will well whether this is successful or not.  What is curious, however, is the assertion that TiVo customers are "fiercely loyal to the TiVo brand".  A quick review of their Q3 results show that TiVo lost 112K customers over Q3, and have only 2.3M customers total.  There are ~115M TV HHs in the US, so TiVo penetration is in the range of 2% of HHs, and by math, their monthly churn is around 4% on the customers paying monthly fees (vs. lifetime subscriptions) - which is significantly higher churn than most pay TV providers.

How is this interpreted as "fiercely loyal"?

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